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Archive for the ‘Governor’s Office’ Category

Serious consideration should be given by our legislature to changing the official state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence” to something more realistic representation of our state—like, say… “At Least We Ain’t Mississippi” (or Arkansas or West Virginia).

On the other hand, West Virginia’s motto “Let Us be Grateful to God” seems a little misplaced as regards this story. the Arkansas motto “The People Rule” just has to be some kind of cruel joke and I still don’t know what our neighbors in Mississippi meant when they adopted “By Valor and Arms” as their calling card.

I write all this because 24/7 Wall Street, that online research service that publishes all those state, city and national surveys of the best and worst of just about anything, has just released another one that puts us right near the bottom but for Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia.

The ranking referred to in this case is “America’s Most and Least Educated States” and it has to be embarrassing to have Alabama and Kentucky looking down their noses at us. Yet, there was Alabama ranked as the seventh worst educated state with Kentucky just two notches better at the fifth-least educated.

And then there was Louisiana, sitting at 47th best, or to put it more bluntly, fourth-worst educated state in the country.

We should be so proud.

Yes, college tuition has more than doubled over the past three decades and in Louisiana, thanks to Bobby Jindal, who now plies his trade as an op-ed columnist for the Wall Street Journal (because he has so much good government advice to share based on his stellar job as governor), who slashed funding for higher education by about 70 percent.

Louisiana has TOPS, which was originally set up to help students in need but which now is spread across the landscape for all students who maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled. Of course, what has gone virtually unsaid is that TOPS has resulted in an explosion of new housing construction on college campuses, underwritten by the universities but constructed by private investors in an elaborate scheme that allows universities to avoid having to go hat in hand to the State Bond Commission for permission to build the new units.

Some schools even require all unmarried, non-local students (that’s all students, as in freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors) to live on campus so as to fill those new housing units. Unsaid is a requirement that all such students purchase meal tickets.

That’s because, according to a former Aramark food manager at a state university, the schools have contracts with food service companies to provide a predetermined number of meals. If, say, Grambling University has a contract with Aramark to provide three meals per day for 3,000 students, Grambling will do all in its power to fill the housing units (thus committing students to pay for the accompanying meal tickets). Should the school fall short and end up with only 2,000 students living in university housing, the school is still on the hook to Aramark for 9,000 meals per day.

Still, the share of Americans (in other states, apparently, but not here) with college degrees continues to increase. Latest figures show that 32 percent of all U.S. adults 25 and over have at least a bachelor’s degree, nearly double the 17 percent of 1980.

In Louisiana, that figure is 23.8 percent, 4th lowest in the U.S.

“Many of the state-level disparities in educational attainment parallel disparities in income, as well as socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, industry composition, and population growth,” the report said.

Accordingly, in Louisiana, the median household income was 4th lowest at $46,145 and the state’s unemployment rate of 5.1 percent was 4th highest in the nation. If you’re one to play hunches, you might remember the number 4 when you go to the racetrack or fill out your Mega Millions and Power Ball tickets.

Arkansas (23.4 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree), Mississippi (21.9 percent) and West Virginia (20.2 percent), ranked 48th, 49th and 50th, respectively followed the pattern with Arkansas’s $45,869 median household income being the 3rd lowest, Mississippi’s $43,529 the 2nd lowest and West Virginia’s $43,296 the lowest. Do you see a trend here?

By contrast, Massachusetts topped the list with 43.4 percent of its adults holding at least a bachelor’s degree while the state’s median household income of $77,385 was 4th highest.

To review the entire list, state-by-state, GO HERE.

But hey, the news isn’t all bad.

Yet another survey, also by 24/7 Wall Street, that lists the 30 COLLEGES THAT PRODUCE the BEST NFL PLAYERS, actually has LSU ranked higher than Alabama even though the Crimson Tide did have two more all-time NFL players than did the Tigers.

LSU was ranked number 7, four rungs higher than ‘Bama, which came in at number 11. Alabama has 352 all-time NFL players to LSU’s 350. But LSU has 116 Pro Bowl players to 104 for the Tide. ‘Bama, on the other hand, has 8 alumni in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, to 3 for LSU. Notre Dame, as might be expected, ranked first, with 567 former players going on to the NFL and the Fighting Irish also led the pack with 182 Pro Bowl selections and 13 alumni in the Hall of Fame.

But here’s the caveat: “No college has produced more current NFL players than LSU and Florida,” the survey says. “The Tigers and Gators are tied with 56. There were eight Tigers drafted in 2017, including three first-round selections.

So, with all that gridiron success by LSU, who needs college degrees anyway?

If the Tigers can just somehow beat Nick Saban’s bunch, median income figures are for the politicians.

If LSU wins a national championship, nobody will care about unemployment rates.

We have our priorities in Louisiana.

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It was the end of February 1968 and John J. McKeithen was just completing his first term of office. (Unlike today, when statewide inaugurations are held in January, state elected officials then took their oaths of office in May.)

McKeithen had earlier upset long-standing tradition when he managed to change the State Constitution during his first term so that he could run for re-election. Previous governors could serve only a single four-year term before being required to (a) seek another office or (b) start raising funds and lining up support for a return four years hence. In other words, governors were barred from serving two consecutive terms.

But this isn’t about McKeithen’s savvy political machinations that allowed him to become the first modern-day governor to succeed himself. It is instead about another precedent set by the Caldwell Parish native: The invoking of gubernatorial powers under Article IX, Section 8 of the 1921 Louisiana State Constitution which resulted in the heretofore unthinkable act of suspending a sitting sheriff from office.

It’s about how the current State Constitution, adopted in 1974, removed that authority from the governor.

And it’s about how, given the freewheeling manner in which some sheriffs wield power in their respective parishes, it might not be a bad idea if that authority was reinstated if for no other reason than to serve as a constant reminder to sheriffs that their actions could have consequences.

Yes, sheriffs are elected officials answerable to their constituents and if they keep getting elected, what business would a governor have in being able to say otherwise, especially if the sheriff and governor were political adversaries?

And if the sheriff can fool the electorate, there are always the courts. But face it, the local district attorney and the sheriff are usually strong political allies who present a formidable team to anyone who would question their authority. There are exceptions, like DA Earl Taylor and Sheriff Bobby Guidroz in St. Landry, who don’t exactly gee-haw on much of anything.

But then there is Louis Ackal in Iberia Parish whose strong-arm tactics, especially where blacks are concerned, has become a source of embarrassment to the locals—or at least should be—and would be even more of a pariah if the local newspaper, the Daily Iberian, was courageous enough to call him out for his egregious flaunting of basic human dignity and his contemptuous trampling of constitutional rights.

In the case of Jessel Ourso of Iberville Parish, across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, it was just a matter of a little Louisiana extortion that prompted McKEITHEN TO OUST OURSO on Feb. 9, 1968. Iberville was in the midst of a construction explosion with chemical plants sprouting up all along the Mississippi and the high sheriff was in a unique position to take full advantage of the boom.

Ourso placed his brother in a no-show job as a union steward for the Teamsters at one plant and contractors were ordered to lease equipment from Ourso’s nephew, State Trooper Jackie Jackson. The tipping point, though, was apparently Ourso’s requirement that contractors use a guard service owned and operated by the sheriff.

One witness described an atmosphere of “just plain racketeering and shakedowns through collusion of individual law enforcement officers and labor.” (Imagine that: the word collusion was being bantered about half-a-century ago.)

McKeithen’s decision to suspend Ourso was based on the recommendation of then-State Comptroller Roy Theriot, a recommendation which in turn stemmed from a report by Legislative Auditor J.B. Lancaster which laid out Ourso’s strong-arm tactics, including his preventing contractors from firing workers who were performing no work.

In Ackal’s case prisoners have died under mysterious circumstances, dogs have been loosed on helpless prisoners in the parish detention center, prisoners have been sexually abused, and women employees have sued—and won settlements—over sexual harassment claims.

A television network recently aired a documentary on Ackal’s fiefdom, concentrating on the death of Victor White, III, who, while he sat in a patrol car with his hands cuffed, was fatally shot in the chest—a shooting that was ruled by the local coroner as a suicide, as improbable as that had to be, considering his hands were cuffed behind him.

Ackal’s office has paid out more than $3 million in legal judgments and settlements in his 10 years in office—a rate of $25,000 for each of the 120 months he has been in office. And that’s not even counting the attorney fees of about $1.5 million. Those numbers are far more than any other parish in the state except perhaps Orleans.

And there are other cases currently pending against Ackal and the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Like the LAWSUIT just filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Lafayette by Michael and Suzzanne Williams.

In that action, the pair said that sheriff’s detective Jacques LeBlanc, who has since left the department, obtained a search warrant for their home because he “thought” he had reason to believe the couple was in possession of “illegal narcotics, drug paraphernalia, currency and other controlled dangerous substance(s).”

When voices were heard outside their bedroom, Michael Williams went to the front door. When he opened it, he was ordered out of the house and deputies stormed the house. They forced Mrs. Williams outside clad only in bra and panties, refusing to allow her to dress. Williams was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car while deputies ransacked their home.

Officers “did not find a scintilla” of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia or illegal narcotics, their petition says. Following a fruitless search, they were released with no charges being filed.

Williams subsequently appeared at the sheriff’s office on numerous occasions in an attempt to obtain a copy of the search warrant and affidavit but were provided with neither, although they have since obtained a copy of the search warrant through other sources. They still do not have the affidavit on which the warrant ostensibly was based. Instead, they were told by Dist. Judge Lewis Pittman, who signed the warrant, that LeBlanc swore under oath that he had good reason to believe they were in possession of drugs.

They are claiming that LeBlanc knew his statement to the effect that he believed they had drugs was false and that he committed perjury in order to obtain the warrant.

They are seeking $2 million in damages in their lawsuit.

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Caddo Commissioner Steven Jackson wants to be the next mayor of Shreveport.

He also wants to remove a confederate monument at the Caddo Parish Courthouse.

That is not a reason to distribute fliers of a PHOTO of Jackson with a noose around his neck and a warning to “LEAVE OUR STATUE & PROPERTY ALONE & GET OUT OF THE RACE N—–.”

There is, quite simply, never a reason for such backwoods, redneck reaction. Ever.

If you disagree with him, then yes, disagree. That’s your right just as it is his right to want the monuments to a dark period in our history removed—monuments to the idea that one man has the right to own another man. The very idea is abhorrent.

I can see the idea of monument removal morphing into demands down the road to change the names of the towns Leesville, Leeville, Jackson, Zachary and the parishes of Jefferson, Jefferson Davis, Jackson, Beauregard, Caldwell, Claiborne, Madison, and Washington.

For that matter, the Alt Right or Unite the Right groups may well demand that the names of Lincoln, Union, and Grant parishes be changed.

For that reason, I remain somewhat ambivalent about the whole issue. But then, my ancestors were never bought and sold like livestock, so who am I to even pretend to understand?

So, whoever placed that flier at the home of a Jackson family member should slither back under that rock from whence he came.

And so also should U.S. Sen. John Kennedy who each passing day is acting more like:

  1. A doddering old fool at the relatively young age of 66;
  2. A sputtering demagogue who doesn’t know when to shut up;
  3. An aspiring Donald Trump impersonator with diarrhea of the mouth;
  4. All of the above.

Kennedy, who dearly loves to dole out his down-home wit and wisdom in sound bites before the TV cameras for the benefit of the folks back home, is at it again.

This time, though, in his unabashed effort to curry favor with Donald Trump, he has stepped in it. He called former CIA Director John Brennan a “BUTTHEAD” but was careful to do so only after Trump stripped Brennan of his security clearance. YOUTUBE

In tossing out his latest banal platitude, Kennedy said (apparently without realizing the irony in what he was saying), “I think most Americans look at our national intelligence experts as being above politics. Mr. Brennan has demonstrated that that’s not the case. He’s been totally political. I think I called him a ‘butthead’ and I meant it. I think he’s given the national intelligence community a bad name.”

So much for senatorial decorum and dignity.

Now, Senator, before I slip up and call you a d**khead or an a**hole (of course, I’d never do that), let’s reflect on what you’ve just said now that you’ve been inside the Beltway what, a whole 19 months?

  • You’re going to take it upon yourself to follow the lead of a man who is the very personification of crudeness, rudeness, brashness, impulsiveness, crassness, untruthfulness, embellishment, self-aggrandizement, egoism, narcissism, thoughtlessness and unprofessionalism?
  • You are going to stick your neck out to contradict the entire intelligence community that says there was Russian interference in the 2016 election, and take instead, the word of a man who has demonstrated his sheer inability to utter the truth, to favor a lie when honesty would serve him better? You’re going to take the word of a misogynistic swindler who has tried for years to negotiate with Putin for the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow over career intelligence personnel who could slip into a coma and, with their knowledge of espionage and counter-espionage, still run circles around you and your “aw, shucks” witticisms that you obviously think make you appear as Will Rogers incarnate?
  • And speaking of the Russians and Putin, I can’t recall that you ever gave a viable explanation as to why you were among the delegation that made its own trip to Russia. Was that one of those classic congressional “fact-finding” missions? If so, what “facts” did you find while there? And just how much did that trip cost taxpayers?
  • You’re going to latch onto the coattails of a man who claimed bone spurs in his feet to keep him out of the military but who now wants to throw a gigantic military parade in his own honor?
  • You’re going to blindly follow a despot who calls the press “the enemy of the people,” and who summarily fires anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him (or, if not fire them, revoke their security clearance—while, I might add, leaving the security clearances of family members in place, family members, by the way, who held meetings with Russians to gather dirt and with Chinese officials to sell visas and to obtain trademarks for their own businesses)?
  • In other words, Senator, you’re going to choose loyalty to your titular party leader over your sworn obligation to serve abd protect this nation?
  • And, just to make sure I’m clear, you’re most probably planning to run for governor next year, which would be your third office to run for in…four years?

Perhaps you have bone spurs in your head.

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As a state representative, John Bel Edwards was once a harsh critic of Bobby Jindal.

That was then. Now appears to be quite different.

Edwards the legislator was often a lonely voice in the legislature, speaking out in opposition to Jindal’s destruction of the Office of Group Benefits and the raiding of OGB’s $500 million surplus from which it paid medical claims for state employees. Then.

Edwards opposed Jindal’s attempts to privatize governmental services, including prisons. Then.

Edwards the legislator was the leading critic—sometimes the only critic—of Jindal’s destruction of the state hospital system. Then.

Edwards the legislator openly challenged Jindal’s constant budgetary cuts, often asking pointed questions of Jindal or his lackeys during committee hearings. Then.

Edwards the legislator said that he was fooled into voting in favor of an amendment at the end of the 2014 legislative session that would have given a hefty—but illegal—boost in retirement income for then-State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson. Edwards, in fact, led the call for an investigation into the maneuver by State Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia. Then

But when John Bel Edwards was elected governor he suddenly began to morph into Bobby Jindal 2.0.

The first indication that the more things change the more they remain the same was when he reappointed Mike Edmonson as State Police Superintendent and Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections Jimmy LeBlanc at the behest of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association.

The sheriffs’ association is a powerful lobby and anyone who desires to be governor must pass in review before the association and receive its blessing. The local sheriff, after all, is the single most powerful political figure at the parish level. And when you multiply that local power by 64, the number of parishes, you have a formidable political force to overcome if you don’t have their collective endorsement.

Edwards’s brother is a sheriff. So was his father and his grandfather before that. So, it was no surprise when Edwards received the association’s seal of approval.

JINDAL was joined at the hip by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and he showed it by his penchant for tax relief for big business at the expense of public and higher education and health care.

Remember when people could actually afford to send their kids to college?

Remember when there were facilities available to those in need of mental health care?

Remember when the state budget reflected some degree of sanity?

Remember when teachers could count on a pay raise every decade or so?

I can remember when there were real Democrats in Louisiana politics and not pretenders who bend with whichever direction the wind blows (see John Alario, John Kennedy, et al).

Well, thanks to the abetting of compliant legislators beholden to corporate campaign contributors, those are now just fond memories.

But when John Bel was elected, there was hope.

Instead, he has cozied up to business and industry and rather than confronting legislators, he tried to get along with them without offending them. Apparently, he didn’t learn from Dave Treen, a Republican governor who tried unsuccessfully to get along with a Democratic legislature.

And now, today, he is in New Orleans to address, of all people, delegates to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). On a lesser scale, that’s the moral equivalent to Trump colluding with…well, never mind.

ALEC is, or should be, everything a real Democrat (as opposed to a DINO) should shun like the plague. A real Democrat truly interested in promoting what is best for Louisiana’s citizens would never set foot inside an ALEC Annual Meeting, much less appear as a speaker at one.

Retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham said as much when was quoted by a Baton Rouge Advocate EDITORIAL yesterday.

ALEC is a conglomerate of BUSINESS INTERESTS that promotes a Republican agenda exclusively. Members converge on a city (like New Orleans) for their Annual Conference, sit down in highly secretive meetings (no press allowed, thank you very much), and draft “model legislation” for member lawmakers in attendance to take back home and introduce as new bills, quite often without bothering to change so much as a comma.

That’s it. Legislative members of ALEC attend these meetings so lobbyists for corporations from other states can tell them what’s best for Louisiana citizens.

In 2011, when then-State Rep. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was its national president, Jindal was the featured speaker and received the organization’s Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.

Now, ALEC is back and so is Jindal 2.0 John Bel Edwards.

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In 2013, the Louisiana Legislature passed and Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law House Bill 703 which mandated that any state unclassified (appointive) employee earning $100,000 or more must be a bona-fide resident of the gret stet of Looziana.

The bill, which would become Act 264 of 2013 and which now goes by Louisiana Revised Statute 42:31, passed the HOUSE easily enough by a 70-20 margin with 15 members ducking out on the vote.

In the SENATE, however, it was quite another story with the bill squeaking through by a razor-thin 20-17 vote with two senators joining their 15 counterparts in the House in not voting.

The author of HB 703? That would be then-State Rep. John Bel Edwards.

Here are the specific provisions of the ACT:

  • Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, any person hired or employed in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, and whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall, within thirty days of being hired or employed at such salary, provide proof to his public employer that he has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  This requirement shall be deemed a qualification for the position for which the person was employed or hired, and for the duration of the person’s employment in the event the person’s salary is increased and the requirements of this Section are triggered.
  • All government agencies which hire or employ any person in an unclassified position as defined by the State Civil Service Commission, whose annual salary or rate of compensation is equal to, or exceeds one hundred thousand dollars, shall verify that such person has been issued a Louisiana driver’s license and that all vehicles registered in his name are registered in Louisiana.  The public employer shall verify the employee meets this requirement for the duration of this person’s employment.
  • Any person hired or employed in an unclassified position who does not meet the requirements of this Section, or who no longer meets the requirements of this Section, shall be removed and terminated within thirty days of the public employer learning such person does not meet the requirements of this Section.

Credit for the introduction and subsequent passage of the law has to go to the late C.B. Forgotston who spearheaded a one-man campaign against state government parking garages crammed with vehicles bearing out-of-state license plates.

C.B. took it as a personal affront that Louisiana tax dollars were being used to hire employees from other states who wouldn’t even bother to register their vehicles in Louisiana. His reasoning was the workers were perfectly willing to take money from the state but weren’t willing to pay their fair share of taxes by simply registering their cars here.

One of the biggest offenders, he learned, was the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE).

Of course, not all the out-of-state employees were pulling down a hundred grand a year but there was this one guy that LouisianaVoice had occasion to write about.

His name was David Lefkowith, though his friends just call him Lefty.

When they see him, that is. Trouble is, he is considered a ghost by some of his co-workers who assumed he was long gone from LDOE. That’s because he doesn’t appear at the LDOE offices in the Claiborne Building across from the State Capitol.

You see, Lefty resides in Los Angeles and commutes to Louisiana if and when he has occasion to drop in to pick up an Enterprise rental at Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans and visit educational centers in Houma, Natchitoches, Lafayette, and Shreveport—but rarely Baton Rouge.

When LouisianaVoice first had occasion to write about Lefty back in 2012, he was knocking down $145,000 a year as something called the Director of the Office of Portfolio.

Act 264 of 2013 threw a monkey wrench in State Education Superintendent John White’s decision to pay Lefty $145,000 and when LouisianaVoice did a story recently about all the unclassified employees at LDOE pulling down $100,000 or more per year, a couple of LDOE employees expressed curiosity to LouisianaVoice as to why his salary was cut $45,000, to $100,000. LEFKOWITH IS NUMBER 197 on the list provided LouisianaVoice.

Well, truth be told, it was cut $45,000.10 to $99,999.90. That put him at a dime below the $100,000 threshold and allowed him to slither under the door.

That is a little trick White probably learned from Jindal who had a cute habit of issuing contracts of $49,999 in order to avert the requirement for proposals, or bids, for all contracts of $50,000 and above.

Still, commuting back and forth between California and Louisiana on a $100,000 salary doesn’t make much sense. It just doesn’t seem a sound fiscal decision unless LDOE pays for his flights back and forth.

Not so, says White.

I made a public records request for all expense payments made to Lefty and I also sent the following email to White:

From: Tom Aswell
Date: Friday, May 25, 2018 at 10:51 AM
To: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Subject: LEFKOWITH

John, for an employee no one in LDOE seems to remember seeing around the office, you certainly have paid him quite a tidy sum in travel and lodging expenses. I have a couple of questions in that regard:

  • How is he allowed to be a full-time employee of LDOE (at $100K per year) and reside in California?
  • What are his precise duties at LDOE. Please be specific?
  • What are his qualifications that you are apparently unable to find in a Louisiana resident?
  • Did you know him before he was brought into LDOE?
  • Does LDOE withhold state income taxes for Louisiana or California?

To his credit, White responded rather promptly, the very next day (a Saturday), in fact:

From: John White <John.White@la.gov>
Sent: Saturday, May 26, 2018 11:02 AM
To: Tom Aswell
Subject: Re: LEFKOWITH

Here is the web site that lists what Dave has developed and leads at the Department: https://www.louisianabelieves.com/courses/all-things-jump-start.

Dave attended Yale University as an undergraduate and Stanford University for business school. He spent more than 30 years as a management consultant across a wide array of industries.  The work outlined above is unique among states and speaks to his capacity to lead the mission with which he has been charged. I was not familiar with him prior to becoming state superintendent.

Dave pays taxes in both states and is reimbursed for work-related travel within the state, as other state staff are. He pays his own commuting costs.

Thanks for the note.

John

As for Lefty’s management consultant duties, one of those was an ill-fated plan, uncovered by reporters Michael Pollock and Chris Davis of the Sarasota (Florida) Herald-Tribune (Davis would move on to become leader of a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg).

In 1998, when Jeb Bush was running for governor of Florida, Enron, then a fast-rising Houston energy broker, was in the process of diversifying into the potentially profitable new field of water supply privatization through a subsidiary called Azurix Corp.

Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) David Struhs, a Bush appointee, was simultaneously promoting two concepts on behalf of Azurix: auctioning off blocks of water to the highest bidders and obtaining underground water and storing it for later withdrawal through a process called aquifer storage and recovery (ASR).

Enron sank $900 million in Azurix, hoping to duplicate the proposed action in two other states, California and Enron’s home state of Texas, as well as in South America. Ultimately, however, Enron lost $500 million when the project failed to materialize, eventually selling what was left of the company in 2001 to American Water Works as a precursor to the eventual collapse of Enron.

Struhs also pushed another project to deregulate energy in Florida and to open the state to competition by allowing companies to build power plants, using existing power lines for the purpose of selling electricity to the highest bidding utility or other customers.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with Struhs was his good friend, David “Lefty” Lefkowith, president of Canyon Group, Inc., of Los Angeles.

Back in 1991, President George H. Bush named 23 industrialists and environmentalists to the President’s Commission on Environmental Quality and named Struhs to run the commission. One of the 23 commission appointees was then-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.

When Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992, Struhs went to work for Lefkowith as vice president of Canyon Group. Lefkowith has represented as many as 60 different electric power companies through his company.

By 1998, Struhs was working for Jeb Bush and Lefkowith was on board with the ill-conceived Florida water privatization project. “I don’t think water is so damn special,” he said at the time. “If you let markets take over, you’d find water was cheaper, there would be more of it, and customers would be better served.” He neglected to explain how water quantity would increase.

Fast forward to 2002 and Struhs and Lefkowith were back at the forefront of market manipulation in Florida at the behest of Jeb Bush, but by now, their dealings were with electric power companies. Struhs was DEP Secretary and Jeb Bush had set up Energy 2020 Commission, a group assembled to study deregulation.

This time when Struhs brought him in as a consultant, Lefkowith was given unlimited access to all the emails of Bush’s Energy 2020 Commission members and staffers even though most of the 2020 commissioners never heard of him, never saw him (sound familiar?) and never knew he access to their correspondence.

On Feb. 4, 2001, Struhs’ deputy chief of staff, Mollie Palmer, ordered a half-dozen top DEP employees to start sending Energy 2020 Commission documents to Lefkowith with emails from Energy 2020 Chairman Walter Revell or from commission executive director Billy Stiles to be “forwarded to Lefty upon receipt.”

After receiving a copy of that memo, Pollock and Davis requested copies of all documents sent to Lefkowith but DEP officials responded that no documents existed. (That sounds much like the responses received by Capitol News Service from the Division of Administration and from the Louisiana governor’s office.)

“Who is this guy to get this information?” asked Florida Democratic Party Chairman Bob Poe. “From the tone and tenor of these emails and communications, he is directing energy policy (for the state). What authority does he have to do that? And for what purpose?”

Democratic State Sen. Kip Campbell of Tarmarac was even less forgiving of the practice. “Suppose I was sending letters to Struhs, like ‘here is my thought process on what we are going to do legislatively.’ And Lefkowith knows this ahead of time. Lefkowith might be working for Calpine and all those other companies and selling that knowledge for profit. I’d be willing to wager he probably was.”

Lefkowith also attended strategy sessions with Gov. Jeb Bush to discuss findings of the Energy 2020 Commission.

In addition, he lobbied Florida utility representatives in private meetings on the issue of building power plants in order to broker power sales.

He would later use the information he had obtained as confidant to Struhs and Jeb Bush to wrangle a consulting job with the Florida PSC.

So, yes, Lefkowith has worked with a lot of different entities but appears to have trouble remaining at one job for very long.

Now about White’s claim that Lefty pays his own commuting costs.

A check of his travel, lodging and meal expense reports provided by LDOE pursuant to our public records request turned up a couple of interesting tidbits, not the least of which was that the records appear to be incomplete with Lefkowith claiming many days of travel in Enterprise vehicles but hotel expense records that can only be described as spotty and sporadic with a lot of gaps. Accommodations for days at a stretch are unaccounted for.

From 2013 through current available 2018 dates, travel records show that LDOE has shelled out more than $21,880 for auto rentals, meals, lodging, and airplane flights to Austin, Texas, Cincinnati, and New Jersey.

On one occasion, on September 3, 2013, he drove an Enterprise rental vehicle 833 miles from New Orleans to Houma and Shreveport and back and even though he was in a rental, he charged LDOE for 99 miles at 51 cents per mile, collecting $50.49 in mileage. (Note: at the time, state regulations allowed employees to be reimbursed for a maximum of 99 miles traveled in personal vehicles as a means to encourage them to drive state vehicles. Regulations do not permit mileage payments while driving rentals.)

In July 2017 Lefkowith rented an Enterprise vehicle for 21 days, paid for by LDOE, and drove the car, a Chrysler Pacifica, from his Los Angeles home to New Orleans, a distance of 1,169 miles on your dime—$609.94 in dimes, to be precise.

So much for White’s claim that Lefkowith pays his own commuting expenses.

For that matter, the idea of paying his own commuting expenses on a $100,000 (oops, sorry. $99,999.90) per year salary just doesn’t make sense.

It’s enough to make one wonder just how many expense reports requested by LouisianaVoice were not forthcoming.

Surely any omissions were simply oversights.

 

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